~Year 2 in Review~

This year has definitely been a challenging one academically, but it has come with many great experiences. In terms of global awareness, I have been involved in many activities in which I am interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. At Nationwide Children’s hospital, I have worked with many kids of various nationalities. Additionally, I traveled to Italy, Spain and France over the summer and was able to greatly appreciate the diversity in each of these places. In May, I will be traveling to the Volta Region in Ghana, Africa to volunteer through OSU in a children’s school. I am hoping that this experience will allow me to immerse myself in a new culture, and will give me important experience working with people from all around the world.  I also decided this semester to pursue a minor in the medical humanities, and many of the classes I will be taking focus on a cultural perspective of medicine. I have had a few opportunities to engage in the research process. In my Biology 1114H class, we were able to create and conduct an experiment about endophytes from start to finish. We brainstormed ideas, collected samples, and carried out the experiment over the entire semester. We even wrote a research paper at the end of the year. This experience taught me a lot about the research process, especially the creative part of it. Over this past summer, I was in a radiology lab here at OSU. I worked for Dr. Michael Knopp analyzing MRI’s from a clinical trial involving glioblastoma. This project taught me even more about the research process, especially because I was in charge of comparing the parameters of the MRI’s submitted to the parameters suggested in the study. The lack of consistency in the parameters showed me just how difficult it can be to organize a country-wide clinical trial. From the end of the summer to January, I worked in a spinal cord injury lab under Dr. Dana McTigue. I helped a graduate student with her project involving the mTOR pathway and oligodendrocyte regeneration. I learned many new skills including staining slides, blocking and cutting tissue, giving subcutaneous injections, and counting specific types of cells. This lab was very beneficial for me because we had a biweekly journal club that I attended. All of the graduate students in the labs on our floor would take turns presenting a paper and interpreting the figures. This was a great way for me to improve my scientific reading skills. Lastly, I attended a couple of presentations where graduate students talked about their research. It was very interesting to hear about some of the studies going on at OSU. The courses that I have chosen to take throughout my four years reflect my ambition to become a doctor and to learn more about different cultures. I have chosen to take some graduate and honors level courses for my Neuroscience major in hopes to prepare myself for medical school. I chose a minor in the humanities because although  I love science, it is important to me to be well-rounded and to learn about different cultures and how this plays into everyday life. Learning to be a leader is very important for my future career. I am a Neuroscience Ambassador, which means I talk to current and prospective students at various Neuroscience events about the program, I help freshman schedule at their orientations over the summer, and I do whatever the Neuroscience department needs me to do. I am also the treasurer for Buckeyes Against Alzheimer’s. This has been a valuable experience because it has taught me how to collaborate with the other members of the board to achieve all of our goals and to make sure everything runs smoothly. Lastly, I am a group leader at my church for Vacation Bible School. I am in charge of a group of kids as I lead them around to the different stations and make sure everyone is having fun and getting along. My goal is to work with kids as a doctor, so any experience I can get with children is great experience. I have been involved in a lot of service in my two years at OSU so far. First of all, I volunteer at Riverside Methodist Hospital where I walk patients and their families where they need to go, I discharge patients, and I do whatever the needs of the hospital are that day. I also have been volunteering at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This has been an incredible experience and I have not only met some incredible children, but also some wonderful nurses and PCA’s who I have been able to get to know. It makes my day when I am able to spend time with a child who has not gotten a lot of attention that day due to their parents being at work. I have also been a tutor for students in beginners Neuroscience classes. I am available to the students to either go over their lecture notes or answer specific questions they may have. Lastly, through Buckeyes Against Alzhiemer’s, I have been able to volunteer at a nursing home in the dementia unit. The members of our club have had the opportunity to bond with some of the residents, and we were even able to throw them a senior prom which was a huge hit. I plan to continue my involvement in the community by staying involved with the previously mentioned activities. Additionally, I hope to get involved with Habitat for Humanity and I would love to be in the Big Sister Little Sister program. Overall, this year has taught me so much, and I am grateful for all of the incredible opportunities that I have been given.

~What Freshman Year Has Taught Me~

My freshman year here at OSU has taught me more about myself than I thought I would ever know.  Not only have I met some of the most incredible people, but these people have already made such a positive impact on my life.  Looking back to move in day, I would have never thought it possible to make the connections I did in what seems like such a short period of time.  I am beyond grateful to OSU for bringing me to these people, and for opening the door to so many amazing opportunities, both as a friend and a student. In eight crazy months, I have learned so much, and grown so much as a student, friend, and daughter.

As I talked to my advisor at orientation and scheduled classes for the upcoming semester, I remember being worried that I had only scheduled two honors classes, and not four.  After the first couple of weeks of classes, I realized how silly that was.  It did not take me long to realize how drastic the transition was from high school to college.  As I took my first Chemistry midterm and got an 83%, I was baffled.  I had excelled in Chemistry in high school, and was confused as to why college should be any different.  I now know that an 83% is still well above average for a Chemistry class at OSU, but at the time, I had a mini freak out.  This was a wake up call for me that I would need to adjust my study habits if I was going to meet the standards that I set for myself.  Over time, I figured out the perfect study routine and was able to reach my goals for the class.  This experience helped me grow as a student by showing me that not only are college classes substantially more difficult than even the hardest high school class, but that each class requires different study habits and various amounts of time outside of class.  This year has also brought me out of my shell in a sense.  I have always been a fairly timid person inside the classroom, as speaking up in front of everyone made my heart race. With the multitude of presentations and in class discussions that I was required to take part in throughout the year, I now feel more comfortable speaking up.  The difference is that in high school, people were judgmental.  There was always the chance that making a comment in class would result in a snicker out of someone or a response that made me feel stupid or inferior. In college, the environment allows me to voice my opinions and answer questions without feeling like I am being judged.  I have learned that chances are if you are thinking it, someone else in the room is thinking it too.  It is so important to me that everyone is able to voice their opinions and that everyone has an open mind for discussion, and I am extremely happy that the classes at OSU allow for that.  Another thing that helped me grow as a student is my increased willingness to put myself out there and take chances.  Although I had only been a part of Buckeyes Against Alzheimer’s for a semester, I decided to take a chance and run for treasurer.  My chance paid off, and I was elected treasurer.  Additionally, I decided to take another chance and apply to be a Neuroscience Ambassador, even though freshman typically do not get this position.  I decided, why not, I am passionate about Neuroscience and helping others, so what was the worst that could happen?  This chance also paid off, as I was selected to be a Neuroscience Ambassador for the following year.  This has taught me to never be afraid to pursue something, even if my chances of succeeding are slim. Overall, my freshman year has helped me grow as a student by teaching me that the most important thing to do is work hard and give it your all, and that I should never be embarrassed to speak up.

I think that the greatest lesson I have learned this year is that no matter your grades, your achievements, and even your worst mistakes, true friends and family will always be there to support you. This year woke me up and made me realize that, yes, it is very important to work hard to achieve my goals, but achieving my goals will mean absolutely nothing if I have no one to share them with.  I have learned to cherish every moment with my friends and family, because you never know when that moment will be the last.  Human connection is so important, and at the end of the day, this is what brings true happiness. This year has helped me become a better friend in so many ways.  First of all, it has given me numerous opportunities to be a good friend by placing the most amazing people in my life. I have made some friendships this year that I already know will last a lifetime. My best friend from home is one of the most amazing and inspiring people I have ever meant, and she truly makes me want to be a better person every day.  This year, tragedy struck her life in a way that she will carry with her forever. She chose to go Columbus State her freshman year to save money and figure out what she wants to do. Throughout the first semester, we talked a lot, but did not get to hang out much due to my busy schedule.  She became close with someone that was a mutual friend of ours.  So close, in fact, that they decided to get an apartment together in Columbus the following semester.  I was ecstatic, my best friend would be minutes away from me and we would be able to see a whole lot more of each other.  Over winter break, everything changed.  I woke up to a chilling text one morning that read nothing more than, “Mackenzie, Steven’s dead.” Of course, I was in shock.  I was not very close to him, but he was someone who I had hung around a lot in the past.  However, he was everything to my best friend.  Although they were just friends at the time, I know that they loved each other, and that he made her feel whole.  My heart broke for her, as I knew the immense pain that she had to be in.  She had been with him the night before, and as we later discussed, she heard sirens while she was lying in bed, and hoped with everything in her that the aching feeling that the sirens were for him was wrong.  Tragically, that feeling was more than a feeling, and she found out the next morning that Steven had been in a car accident and was killed instantly.  For the next week, I did everything I could for her, from letting her cry and talk to me to lying on her bedroom floor while she slept to make sure she knew she had someone there when she woke up. My best friend had lost her best friend, and I knew she would never fully recover.  This tragedy made me open my eyes to how fleeting life is, and how we need to take in every single moment with one another.  The people in our lives that care about us are so much more important than one test, or one interview.  This experience, as well as this entire year has made me appreciate every moment with my friends, old and new, whether it is taking a road trip, watching a movie, staying up talking until all hours of the night, or even playing cards or studying together.  Every moment that we get to spend with and make connections with people that care about us is a beautiful moment, and one that we should never take for granted.

Being away from my parents has not only led me to become more independent, but has also made me realize what a blessing it is to have the parents that I do.  I never realized how much my parents played a role in my daily life.  Whether it was help with filling out a form, or offering a simple piece of advice, I definitely took those things for granted before my freshman year.  In that aspect, I have definitely grown as a daughter in that I have learned to appreciate every little thing that my parents have done and still do for me.  There was definitely an added struggle in terms of my parents throughout this year.  In May of 2016, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Throughout the summer and well into the school year, she was receiving chemotherapy every two weeks.  This was tough because as I moved into my dorm and started off the school year, I was always worrying about her in the back of my mind.  I made a point to call as much as possible and ask about her treatment, and I was even able to visit her when she had surgery at the James Cancer Center.  After a very long year, she is finally cancer-free, and I am grateful for that every single day.  My mom is my person, and I would be nowhere without her influence.  She has taught me to be strong, kind, and hopeful.  This experience as well as being away from my parents in general has taught me to spend as much time as possible with those that I love.  Anything can happen at any time to anyone, so it is important to never take anyone, especially your parents who want the best for you, for granted. I am so so appreciative of everything that my parents have done for me since day one, and realizing how I would be nowhere without either of them has helped me to become a better daughter.

Overall, this year was a learning year in many areas.  The main lessons that this year has taught me are that there are some things that are beyond our control, and that it is so important to cherish every moment with the ones we love. This summer holds many promising adventures, such as a vacation to Europe, a trip to the Dominican Republic, quality time with old and new friends, a nannying job, and a research position at the Wright Center of innovation. As I embark on the journey of summer and everything it holds, I will take these lessons and integrate them into my daily life.  I am so thankful to OSU for helping me grow as a student and a human being, and I cannot wait to see what next year has in store.